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Woman of the Year 2004

Time Out London UK, December 21, 2004 - January 5, 2005
By John O'Connell

Young, supremely talented and tantalisingly beautiful, Scarlett Johansson was the star of 2004. We first featured the actress on the cover of Time Out a year ago when she stood on the cusp of fame, and met her again recently to talk about the highlights of a memorable 12 months: filming with Woody Allen, partying with the Prince and looking after a small dog with a leaky bladder...

It seems incredible now, but this time last year Scarlett Johansson was virtually unknown. We were the first British magazine to put her on the cover, in October 2003, for our London Film Festival issue. 'Scarlett Johansson has arrived,' we announced, though she hadn't, not quite. She had two films showing in the LFF, though; two strong films - 'Lost in Translation' and 'Girl With a Pearl Earring'. She was superb in both. That consistency was as compelling as the aesthetic distance between Sofia Coppola's ambient comedy of cultural dislocation and Peter Webber's elegant period drama.

It didn't hurt that, in person, Johansson was a knockout - a perfect union of petite beauty, serene confidence and, if you weren't careful, withering hauteur. ('You think you're the first one to ask?' she enquired of a journalist who dared to wonder, rather late in the day, what Bill Murray had whispered to her in 'Lost in Translation's' final scene.) When you consider how much of the last year she's spent on the promotional trail, it's a miracle Johansson managed to get any other work done at all. Yet the 20-year-old has made three films since Time Out last spoke to her ('In Good Company' with Dennis Quaid, Woody Allen's as-yet-untitled 'summer project' and 'A Good Woman', Oscar Wilde's 'Lady Windermere's Fan' updated to the 1930s and relocated to Italy); four if you count the voicework she contributed to kids' film 'The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie'. Now she's busy on a fifth, Michael Bay's 'The Island', effectively a remake of the '70s sci-fi classic 'Logan's Run'. Johansson plays Jordan TwoDelta, the trusted ally of a 'harvested being' (Ewan McGregor) attempting to escape from a utopian facility.

Professionally, she's enjoying herself, capitalising on her ascension to the A-list by alternating arthouse fare with big-budget blockbusters. 'A Love Song for Bobby Long', the New Orleans-set indie she made with John Travolta in 2003, is just out in the US. Towards the end of 2005, she'll clamber aboard the much-delayed juggernaut that is 'Mission: Impossible III', having first shot Brian De Palma's adaptation of the James Ellroy novel 'The Black Dahlia'. She has a new flat in LA, an actor boyfriend Qared Leto), and is the face of Calvin Klein's latest fragrance, Eternity Moment. On balance, few people have had a better 2004 than Scarlett Johansson. But invited to appraise it in more detail, what conclusions would our Woman of the Year reach? We caught up with her to find out.

Time Out:Hi Scarlett. How are you?
Scarlett Johansson: Exhausted, actually. I've been working like a psycho person. We're in the middle of shooting 'The lsland' and it's been a lot of work - though I had the day off today, which is rare. The studio has given us a release date and that puts the pressure on. Though actually, when I'm not working, the first couple of weeks are really fantastic, then towards the end of the first month I start to have anxiety attacks from not doing anything with my life. I get bored, to tell you the truth, and feel stale. I might go to Bangladesh with Oxfam and then explore into India. That might be interesting and exciting, and nothing like what I've been doing for the past couple of months.

You'll get Christmas off, though?
Yeah, just the standard two-week holiday. I'm going back to New York to spend time with my family.

Last time we met, you were relatively unknown. But now you're Scarlett Johansson, International Superstar. Weird, or nice?
Well, I don't really... You don't think about it until you're already in the weird moment. Other than that, it feels quite normal because I've just been working, which is all I know how to do and all I want to do. The only time it really feels strange is if I'm in a hotel and someone is filming me at breakfast or something. There's the creepy media part, too - people making up weird gossip and following you or whatever. But the good part outweighs the bad. I try not to let anything distract me from my work unless it's my dog peeing on the carpet.

You spent a lot of time in London this year, either promoting stuff or making Woody Allen's movie...
Yeah, I had the most wonderful summer of my whole life. I got to be in this great city, and the weather was so beautiful every day. I could just throw on a hooded sweatshirt and walk around, go to museums. I used to go to Notting Hill on my days off and just hang around there. I'd love to own a place there at some point, whenever that would be. It reminds me of Greenwich Village in New York, where I grew up. I love London so much.

I know you're all sworn to secrecy about the film, but how much can you tell us?
[Coyly] What do you want to know?

Everything.
Hmm. As far as the plot goes I can't really... I've heard a lot about what people think it's about. What did vou hear?

That it's a mild satire of London high society: minor aristos, gallery owners, media flibbertigibbets. Am I close?
Not really. [Laughs]

Oh, come on. Spill the beans!
I can't! Though I've read so much funny stuff about what it's supposed to be about. In actuality it's quite different. Woody insists on secrecy because it prevents hype, which he likes to avoid. Whether that works for you or against you I don't know. Personally I like to go to films and not know anything about them beforehand.

When you were over here for the BAFTAs, you went to the Brit Awards, and there was a great TV moment on ITV2 backstage afterwards. You were interviewed on a sofa with an off-their-faces Busted.
I was, I remember. I felt so out of it. I mean, I wasn't out of it, but I was like, 'Hello?' I felt like I was having a Bill Murray moment. Someone pushed me in there: 'Look! Go and be interviewed by that nice woman!' Busted had just won something. But I didn't know who they were. We don't have Busted here. They're huge in Britain, though, aren't they? Maybe I'm out of the loop.

The Brits was Duran Duran's big comeback moment. Did any of them try to chat you up?
Actually, I know some members of Duran Duran. I know Simon and... No, they've been really sweet to me, not icky or gross at all. Why? Are they known for that?

Moving swiftly on... A certain London daily newspaper reported that, while you were here, you 'cut a swathe through the Prince William party set'.
Oooh! Where is that happening? Can we go? They always seem like they're having a good time.

You didn't meet Prince William?
I have never had the opportunity of meeting Prince William. But I'm sure he's a very nice young man. He's very handsome. I would certainly like to meet him some day. Maybe we could go for cocktails?

Tell us about `Mission: Impossible III'.
It's been postponed till September while it's rewritten. But I'm doing weapons training for it! Just pulling a trigger is easy enough, but when you're loading your magazine and you have a machine gun and a handgun and a shotgun, and you're trying to figure out how to use them all... I'm being trained by someone who was in the special forces, so I get to know interesting stuff like how they train the Iraqi army.

Talking of Iraq, how was the US election for you?
Extremely depressing. What really appals me is that our country chose this moment to re-elect Bush. What's so ironic you have to laugh is that they say allowing gay people to marry would involve rewriting the constitution when in fact this administration is taking human rights away from people, trying to overturn Roe Vs Wade [successful 1973 Supreme Court challenge to a Texas statute that criminalised abortion unless a woman's life was at stake] and all these things that are so important. I could go on. I really believe that Kerry would have been a wonderful president. At first my reaction was 'Anyone but Bush', because I was a Howard Dean supporter. But the more I listened to Kerry, the more convinced I became that he was more than just a better alternative. We can only hope that the next four years aren't as horrifying as they could be.

As an American abroad, did you catch much flak over the war?
People would come up to me and say, 'YOU! YOU shouldn't be in Iraq!' And I was like, 'Listen buddy, there are millions of US citizens speaking out against this war. This is not a united country.'

On a lighter note...
'Who are your favourite designers?' Neat segue!

Thanks. Now, you have a dog, don't you?
I do. Margaret. She's a chihuahua. She's very little. I didn't expect to get such a little dog, but she magically appeared. And now I have this little addition that I never planned on, and she's the light of my life.

So you have to employ a dog-sitter when you're working?
She comes to work with me. She's the biggest star on the show! People knock on my door all day and I think they want something from me but actually they just want my dog. She hangs out in my trailer. She's a spoilt brat, but at least she gets to socialise so she's not one of those creepy I'm-carried-everywhere dogs.

Finally, as someone who's done a lot of travelling this year, which airline would you say has the best inflight food?
British Airways. Positively. I love British Airways. They have this menu where you can just choose when you want to eat.

Virgin have that too.
Yeah, but there's something about the options on BA that are just really tasty. They do a full banana split sundae, and any airline that does a full banana split sundae is okay with me. It's almost like they just cook the food right there. And it's kind of plain. I don't like airline food that's, like, infused with juice of guava or mango. I like it to be normal, like a grilled chicken sandwich.

WHAT'S SCARLETT READING?

'I just read Tatum 0'Neal's autobiography, "A Paper Life", which is really, really good. l raced through it in about two hours. It totally floored me. Right now I'm reading Ewan [McGregor]'s book, "Long Way Round". It's really fun, and because I'm working with him I can bother him by asking him about it! What's great is there's nothing patronising about it; it's not like, "I took a trip and this is what I did". He grew a big beard? 'Yeah, but I don't think it was intentional; l think it just happened. He's one of those men who have to shave every day.'

WHAT'S ON SCARLETT'S IPOD?

'I need a bigger iPod actually because I can't stop downloading stuff on to iTunes. Today I was listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. The new Bj÷rk CD is so ingeniously progressive. I just got the new Tom Waits album, which is great, and the Green Day album.'

SCARLETT'S FITNESS TIPS

'If you're going to get a personal trainer, make sure it's someone you're completely comfortable with. I've worked with people before who've made me uncomfortable and self-conscious, and when that happens you just don't want to do it. You think it's you, but actually it's your relationship with this person, which is very personal and private. They see you at your most vulnerable and awful-looking.'


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